After 10 years of no contact, I’ve run into Crystal twice inside 10 days. The second time was this morning, on the train. She got on at Rockwell, dragging a big rolling backpack and a portfolio or something and a purse. I watched her, smiling at the sight of her settling herself and her stuff into a single seat. Once she was all settled, she looked up and saw me. She gathered all her gear and came over and sat beside me. “Not you again,” I believe she said.
The first time I’d run into her was at Harvestime. I was running in while Dave waited in the car outside. The parking lot was full and we only needed a couple of things. I saw her as I grabbed a cart. She was checking out. I watched as she rolled her cart full of shopping bags toward me, making sure it was her, taking her in—dressed in black, perhaps even more striking than she was 10 years ago, perfectly arched eyebrows, a bit of a smirk.
That first time, we caught up hurriedly (“Oh, dealing with elderly parents like everyone right now.” “Oh, mine are both dead.” “Oh, I’m sorry.” “No, I’ve got it easy.”), showing pictures of cat and dog, with more parentheticals for pets gone by, the ones we’d had when we were friends.
No more than five minutes, and then “See you in the neighborhood.” I didn’t want to ask too many questions, appear too curious. It would be like trying to befriend a stranger, like picking someone at random in the produce section and saying, “Let’s exchange numbers.” But it felt good to see her and know a little of her life. “Dave’s waiting,” I said, not that she knew who Dave was, and we hugged and went our separate ways.
“Sorry I took so long. I ran into Crystal,” I said when I got back in the car.
“An old friend. My old best friend,” I said.
“Oh…” Dave was still racking his brain, or maybe already thinking about getting back to his painting job.
Then yesterday, on my way to a script meeting at The Perfect Cup, I was too lazy to get out my bike. It was too hot. I jumped on the el for three measly stops, and there she was again. We didn’t need to catch up this time. Instead, we joked about our teeth and the mildly disconcerting things dentists had said to us recently, and just like in the old days, my stop came up way too fast. “See you around,” I said and got off the train.
I was very happy as I walked to the coffee shop, feeling after all this time that we have a comfortable if insignificant place in each other’s lives. With some of my favorite people, that’s the best place to be.